Table of Contents


[The following is a novella that I am currently writing and will be publishing at the end of this year. Because of that I have shorted the article to be the initials of the title of my book. Enjoy!]


“What is real, and what is just a dream?” Recently, it is something I have been constantly thinking of. Every so often, I wake from a dream so vividly real that I swear it has to be real. Sometimes the sensations and feelings in my dreams seem impossibly real, even to the point of causing lingering pain when I awake. Still, despite how realistic they feel, each dream ends with some sort of drastically different sensation that assures me otherwise. I guess for the most part, that is how I know that my dreams are just dreams and nothing more.

However, on this late summer afternoon, I somehow manage to dream of nothing before waking from a nap. I open my eyes to a familiar and tranquil outdoors scene, soon to be interrupted.

A voice creeps then rushes into my ears, “Jo…ey!!! Earth to Joey! Are you there?” Right on cue like usual.

I open my eyes and glare at her. “Damn, why couldn’t you be the sound of nails scratching a chalkboard? It’d be less torturous to awaken to.” Immediately she pouts and says, “Aw, you’re so mean Joey.”

“And how many times do I have to tell you, my name’s Joseph; not Joey. You know I hate that nickname.” I look sternly at her as she continues to smile. “Well I’m awake, what do you want?”

She laughs cutely for a few seconds. “You’re funny. Anyway, you wanna get some ice cream? I’ve been craving some today…” She tilts her head as she waits for me to get up.

The sun is brilliantly bright on this late summer afternoon, with streaks of light illuminating everything around me. I feel refreshed having lounged under the enormous ash tree in the middle of the quad. Despite how bright everything is, the weather is unseasonably cool. It causes the sun-drenched air to be slightly warm and yet crisp. As I look around, there are some students assembled around the quad preparing for various afternoon club activities. After rubbing my eyes and stretching for a few moments, I stand and begin walking with her to the cafeteria. It’s looking like it is going to be another nice afternoon. And some ice cream would definitely hit the spot. Even without ice cream, it’s always fun to hang out with…Wait a minute, what’s her name? I suddenly stop and worryingly begin to think. In fact, where am I? How do I know that it is late summer and that the weather is unseasonably cool? I quickly begin to glance around.

“Huh? Joey what’s the matter? Are you alright…?” Her voice begins to fade as I become engrossed in thought.

Even though I swear I have never been here before, it all feels so familiar. I am obviously at some sort of college, but I cannot find anything to discern my location. I find it peculiar that despite what seems to be an intimate knowledge of this place, I have no remote inkling of where I am. And why am I here? I know that I graduated from college over a year ago. Nonetheless, it’s a beautiful campus; and if I wasn’t concerned and spooked out, I wouldn’t mind being here. As I struggle to find a clue as to my whereabouts, a bed of blue flowers steal my gaze and I begin staring intently at them. They have a stunning and captivating shape with an intriguingly pleasant smell of lavender and berry. And for some reason, I can’t break my focus from them. I struggle for a few more moments when suddenly a gush of air rushes across my face.

Pop! I see two hands clasped right in front of my face. “Typical Joey, a cute girl tries to get your attention and you space out on her. And you wonder why you’re single…”

“Oh be quiet. And what if you accidentally slapped my face with that stunt of yours? You know how much that would hurt?”

“It’d be justified, don’t you think? Besides, you’re probably used to it at this point. I mean if you do that to me, you most likely have done it to other girls.”

“Shut it! And what do you mean by ‘pretty?’ That’s a joke if I ever heard one.”

She looked right at me and clenched her face and pouted, “Mmmmm.”

“I kid, I kid,” I say as we resume walking.

Admittedly, she is quite attractive and has a really cute face. Her murky jade eyes complement her slightly plump cheeks faintly kissed with color. She has full lips, colored with a soft pink. Her slightly wavy hair, just short of neck length, is a stunning jet black. She has a long and delicate neck that matches her slender, athletic build. However, despite her thinness, her hips are not overly slim, and her figure is in pleasant proportion. Her skin is a clear, milky white that accentuates her thinness and length. In terms of height, she is probably five-six, about two inches shorter than I am. If the two of us were actually going out, I think we’d be a pretty cute couple.

As we approach the cafeteria, she firmly but daintily hops onto the stone ledge separating the flowers from the walkway. I chuckle at her as she smiles at me. She is so familiar; would it be wrong if I asked her name? How awkward would it be?

Unexpectedly, I feel another gush of air; but this time, it’s a more encompassing sensation as a gust covers my entire face. I think about her smacking her hands together, but somehow that feels incorrect. This time around, the sensation feels more feathery. Sort of like weightlessness. For some reason, that feels right…

A split second later, I regain focus to see myself having missed a stair step. I am now in a momentary free-fall and my face has begun a one-way collision with the floor. I quickly mutter aloud, “Weightlessness…Damn.”

Chapter 1

A loud thud awakens me from my sleep. I can feel the vibration from cascades of paperwork landing on my office desk.

Somebody then taps on my shoulder and says, “Hey Joe, wake up.” I looked up and saw my supervisor Rob. “Have you been here all night? I last saw you yesterday afternoon and you’re still here in the same clothes.” The last I remembered, I was working on some reports, so I assumed he was right. “I guess I did.”

“I suppose you stayed in to finish these results, but you really shouldn’t overwork yourself like this. Anyhow, I took it from your desk and I’m looking over it now. Nice job.”

I opened my eyes and saw the morning sun gleaming through the window. From the looks of things, I guessed it was about an hour before everyone would begin arriving for work. Rob bent down and took a closer look at me, “Whoa, your face is all red. As if your face went smack into a wall. Go and tidy yourself up.”

I shook my head to remove what remained of my morning haze. How did I manage to fall asleep here? Why didn’t I just head home? Unfortunately, I didn’t have more than a few moments to think about it. I needed to change myself out of these clothes; wearing them for so long made them slightly reek. Fortunately, I kept an extra change of clothes in my locker, so I grabbed them and went to the restroom to change for another day.

The last few days have been particularly difficult for me. I had several major projects nearing their deadlines all around the same time. And I just learned that my parents were in the middle of separating. This, along with all my daily responsibility and stresses has caused me to be much more tired than usual. Thinking about it, it’s probably why I slept overnight at work and had that strange dream. I was definitely looking towards being done with these projects so that I could take some time off, take care of things in my personal life and manage at least a few days of relaxing.

It ended up being another busy and trying day, but I get through it without any incident. I swing by my favorite Chinese Take-Out and pick up some mixed seafood and veggies before heading back to my apartment. I hang up my coat before plopping down onto the recliner to eat dinner while watching TV. Afterwards, I head into my home office to take care of any lingering items from work before heading to sleep.

I woke to the sensation of soft but cobbled shaking. As I open my eyes, it is clear to me that I am on the subway.

“Oh, you’re finally awake. You were really tired Joey.”

“What? Where am I?” I quickly asked as I looked up to the female voice.

“You’re treating me to dinner silly,” she said with a slight laugh.

It was her again, the girl from my dream last night sitting across of me, except gussied up. Her straight black hair was now wavy with it parted to the side by a cute pink butterfly hair clip. She dressed in a slender and silky green knee-high dress and wore off-white pumps on her feet.

“Dinner? As in my treat, you pay?” For some reason, saying that came so easily even though joking that way was unlike me.

She frowned and moaned in dismay, “Huh…? What? You promised Joey! You said you were going to treat me after I did so well on my midterms. I worked really hard, you know. Why are you being so mean?”

I tried thinking for a few moments. It bugged me that I still couldn’t remember her name; even though it was clear that we knew each other very well. I tilted my head and stared at her with a blank and confused look for a moment before jokingly, and yet seriously, asking, “Who are you again?”

She laughed uneasily as she asked, “What? You’re being silly. It’s me, Cici.”

Cici? That felt right, but yet not right at the same time. I thought about this while looking blankly at her the whole time.

Several more seconds passed before she retorted uneasily, “This isn’t funny Joey.” Staring at her like that clearly unnerved her. “Are you doing some kind of comedy routine? I don’t like it.” Her face reddened and her eyes slightly dampened.

That caused me to immediately break out of thought. For some reason, just sensing her becoming disheartened caused me to be very uncomfortable. I reacted by grabbing her and softly patting her on top of her head. “Hey. I’m sorry.” I smiled at her, “You know I’m just messing around, right?”

She pinched her lips together and slowly nodded. “I know. It just felt slightly different when you did it this time.”

“My bad. All better now?”

“Yes.” She chuckled, “As long as you’re still treating me to dinner.”

I raised my brow at her, “What? Is that all I’m good for? Free food?” Once again, saying that was so easy for me, despite how unlike me it was.

She stuck her tongue out at me. “Just getting back at you.” We both laughed for a moment. “You know I always enjoy spending time with you.”

“I’m glad. Me too. By the way, you look really nice.”

She blushed slightly. “Thank you. Knowing you like it makes me happy.”

I smiled at her. “Well, I’m glad I can make you happy.”

Her cheeks reddened even more. “Oh. Um…” Suddenly, she stuck her bag in front of her face so that I wouldn’t see how beet red she was becoming. I chuckled softly when I then managed to catch a name on a tag on one of the notebooks in her bag: Amanda Cain. Although the two names didn’t match, it didn’t feel odd at all.

I gave her a few more seconds before I asked, “So, uh, what restaurant did I promise?”

She took a few more breaths before lowering her bag. “I don’t know, you said you would surprise me,” she sheepishly said, still slightly red.

“Ah, right. Well how about we go to wherever you want.” I then realize what I had just said and instinctively clasp my hands together. “Please don’t make me regret my offer.”

She punched up into the air jubilantly as she exclaimed, “Yay! Awesome! I promise I won’t make you broke, Joey!”

I sharpened my look at her. “And I how many times do I have to tell you, my name is not Joey, it’s Joseph!”

That evening, we went to a very nice steak restaurant and feasted on a huge meal of the most delicious steak I had ever had. The two of us enjoyed our meal and had a wonderful time. I knew that this was all a dream but I enjoyed it so much because it felt just so real; it was like an escape from all the troubles and stress that I had.

After our meal, I began brooding on the fact that this was all just a dream. I desperately wished this was more than that; that this was just somehow tangibly real. I wished that I could be happy in my life just like I was in this dream. The more I thought about it, the sadder I became. I continued to stare blankly across the table when Cici snapped me out of thought. “What’s wrong Joey? What are you thinking about?”

I shook my head and smiled. “Oh, nothing.”

Softly and empathically she looked at me, “Are you sure?”

I wanted to tell her what I was feeling. How this dream made me feel good. How it was an escape from the stresses in my live. And how I wished that this could be real. But I couldn’t say that I knew this was just a dream. The thought of doing that frightened me. If I did that, it’d diminish something that I couldn’t put my hand on. And besides, if I admitted that I knew this was just a dream, this would all end. That’s how this works isn’t it? Once the dreamer admits that this is a dream, it ends right? In any case, Cici intrigued me and I wanted to know more about her. It was so nice being with someone that was so responsive to my feelings, even in a dream. I let out a deep, long sigh.

“Joey?” She was still looking at me. I didn’t want brush her aside after she had patiently waited for a response. So I decided it was a good time to ask her something that I had been curious about. I looked at her misty green eyes and asked, “So what’s the deal with us?”

She tilted her head to the side, “What do you mean?”

I curled my lips to the side and thought for a while before responding. “I mean, why am I doing this for you? This is a pretty nice place after all.”

“Uh…It’s because we’re friends and we’re really close to each other,” she quickly replied.

I raised an eyebrow, “Is that it?”

Cici looked down for a moment. She paused for a moment before finally asking, “What do you think?”

I shifted in my seat and shrugged my shoulders. “I’m not sure, that’s why I asked…” Suddenly, I could feel my heart beating faster.

She popped her head back up as she seemed to force a smile. “Then, yeah, it’s because we’re friends.”

Something seemed off. For some reason, my heart was racing and I could feel a tinge of sadness in her response. However, I didn’t want to push any further. “I see. Well, shall we get going then?”

We both got up to catch the subway. “Uh.” She did her best to avoid my gaze. “Why’d you want to know?”

My heart was still racing. “No reason.”

She looked down at the ground as we walked. Once we got to the subway she asked, “So well, why did you do this for me?”

During this entire time my heart continued racing and my hands became cold. There were now tinges of pain in my stomach as I started feeling dizzy and lightheaded. Somehow, I forced a smiled back at her and said, “Like you said, it’s because we’re friends.”

As the cab started moving, Cici finally stopped looking down and looked at me. Then for some reason, she worryingly, Cici let out a little yelp. “Joey?”

“Huh?” At this point I felt a tremendous amount of dizziness and nausea and the shakiness of the subway rolling on the tracks only made it worse.

“Are you—?”

I’m pretty sure she asked if I was okay, but for some reason everything began drowning out with only the thing lingering being the pain. It was becoming unbearable. Fortunately only a few more moments passed before everything went black.

I woke from my dream with a slight, cold sweat as my heart palpitated. I shook my head and rehashed what I had just dreamt; it was so nice yet unnervingly real. Suddenly, I felt a tic in my stomach as the image of the steak restaurant came to mind. I shook my head denying the possibility of that dream causing any of the symptoms. While those thoughts ran through my mind, the throbbing in my abdomen steadily gained intensity. Eventually, it caused me to jump out of bed and I raced to the toilet. My stomach was churning and the nausea began kicking me in the throat. I positioned my head over the toilet and threw up what had been churning in my stomach. After coughing a few times from the sudden influx of bile, I saw what I had vomited. I was terrified. Pieces of steak were floating in the bowl. Slowly, sweat began dripping from my forehead; I knew something was definitely wrong. I was certain I had Chinese Take-Out for dinner.

Chapter 2

The pitter-patter of water continuously struck my window. For the fifth day in a row, it was raining again. I looked to see where I was. I was in my apartment, lying in bed. The curtains were slightly ajar and let in a faint clouded light. I took a glance at the clock; it was about an hour before work. I was not sure whether this was that dream world or the reality I had known for over twenty years. I pinched myself on the arm. A sharp but slight pain emitted from where I chose. Even though the pinched skin slowly turned red, it still was not enough to convince me of anything. These sensations were the same as they were in my dreams.

I chuckled for a moment at the adage ‘pinch me I must be dreaming’ out of sheer irony. I now knew that pinching could not determine whether I was awake or not. Because of my inability to determine anything, I got up and paced around the apartment to convince myself that I am really awake. From what I can tell, it seems that way. Despite the realism of my recent dreams, I am yet to find any fragments of my normal surroundings; so the real-life familiarity reassures me. I get up and ready myself for work.

The last few days have been a rough-and-tumble roller coaster of emotion for me. I have sluggishly been doing my normal routine of going to work, performing my duties, going home, having dinner, and watching TV before eventually going to sleep. I find my days to be monotonous and dreary, despite the exciting nature of my job. I catch myself constantly thinking about Cici and that place and find myself unable to rest. However, when I manage go to sleep, it all changes. For some odd reason, I find myself being the most happy in my dreams with Cici; the sensations and feelings that I get from her and these dreams are so intoxicatingly real. I look forward to our playful interludes that I spend with her in my dreams. It is as if each dream is a mini vacation. However, like vacations, all my dreams end much too quickly. I usually awake distressed at the nature of the dreams contrasted to my dismal existence. Because of all this, I cling to the impossible hope that they could be real in a desperate wish for escape.

Still though, despite the frequency of these dreams, I cannot remember any of the names or places in them except for Cici’s. On top of that, I had not found anything that would either confirm or deny the nature of these dreams. There has not been similar occurrence since the steakhouse dream. In fact, after much deliberation, I attributed that incident to simple forgetfulness on my part.

However, I had no time to continue mulling over those dreams; I needed to get to work early. I finished getting ready and left the apartment.

I arrived at work and immediately went to the conference room where I needed to go. When I got there, I opened the door and saw a man sitting on a chair holding a folder of some sort. He looked up and greeted me, “How are you doing this morning Mr. Joseph Aravio?”

I shrugged my shoulders, “I’m fine I guess.”

“Are you comfortable? We want this to be as much so as possible.”

I looked at the long chairs in the corner of the room “You mind if I lounge on those over there?”

He nodded. “Of course, go right ahead.”

I walked toward a chair and sat down. Today was my scheduled yearly psychological that my workplace required. I looked back at him and said, “Alright, I’m good.”

He nodded at me and said, “My name is Alexander Caldwell, but you can call me Alex. How about you Mr. Aravio? What name should I call you by?” “Joe or Joseph would be fine.”

Alex looked down at the sheet he held, “Well Joe, as you may know, this exam is a generic psychological exam that tests to see whether you are fit to continue working at The Experimental Ceanothus Labs located here in the fourth ward of Silo Valley. So let me first ask, how long have you been working at ExCeL4?”

I thought for a moment before answering, “Just over a year and a half.” “I’m quite impressed, from your profile that means you began working here just before you turned twenty; whereas the average starting age is normally 24 or 25.”

I showed a small smile. “Yeah, I went to school early and graduated quickly.”

He smiled back, “Your family must be proud.”

I nodded, “Yeah, I suppose.”

“What do you mean you suppose? Was it your decision to pursue such an accelerated education?”

I realized I inadvertently mentioned some personal baggage. “Well, they did push for me to do so; but I also was fine with going so early.”

“So it wasn’t your decision?”

I fervently shook my head. “It was a mutual decision. Besides, it’s not as if I resent having been pushed. It’s gotten me a great job at ExCeL4.”

“You’re certain?”

Admittedly, I have thought about doing other things, but I always ended up doing what my family asked of me. However, I never thought about it in a negative light. “Yes, I am. Anyhow, all I meant by my first remark was that I’m sure they are proud, I just hadn’t seen them for a while.”

“How often do you see them?”

“Maybe once every few months.”

He jotted down a few things for a moment. “Is that normal?”

“Um…I guess.” I stopped and collected my thoughts. “I’ll let you know Alex, my family is having some issues right now. However, my family and myself are not the same thing; I can confidently tell you that I’m fine despite my family going through a rough patch.”

He nodded in affirmation. “I understand; I’m just getting a feel for your profile.” He looked down into his notepad. “Well then, do you live alone?”


“I know a lot of lab types in your predicament. Are you alright living alone?”

I nodded again, “Yes. I may be alone, but I’m not lonely or anything like that. I have friends and acquaintances that I socialize with.”

“Are you in any sort of relationship?”

I shook my head, “I never really bothered getting a girlfriend; I’m really just focused on my career at the moment. I wouldn’t mind having someone, but I’m just as content as I am right now.”

“Okay.” He scribbled some more. “Let’s change gears. Do you like working here?”

“Yeah, this is a great job and it’s really fun. I really enjoy the work we do researching the properties of all of these flowers. And it’s really satisfying when I find a something that can help lots of people. ”

“Do you get along well with your coworkers?”

I nod my head. “Yeah, my coworkers are great. I’m comfortable working with them, and they are all very supportive.”

“Does the pressure of working here ever get to you?”

I was not sure what he meant so I asked, “What do you mean?”

“Well, a job like this comes with various types of pressures: tight work schedules, demanding hours, dealing with secrets, and even things like releasing things that could have unforeseen affects.”

“Oh, yeah.” I pause for a second. “I know that corporate is always breathing down our necks, and I know that sometimes negative things can happen, but the pros have outweighed the cons. It definitely is stressful at times, but in the end, it’s worth it.”

“Well then, that’s good.”

We then talked a few more minutes about my thoughts on work before. Afterwards, he gave me two sheets to fill out. The first was some sort of generic psychological response sheet and the second was a paper regarding my thoughts and feelings on various items regarding work and my personal life. All in all, the evaluation went fine; however, I had a strange feeling during the entire process and for some reason the dreams that I had been having did not come to mind at all. Relieved that the evaluation went off without issue, I was able to make a lot of progress on models for several proposals I was working on.

When I finished with work, I went home and did the usual. I was pleasantly surprised that I did not think about my dreams for an entire day. However, when I finally got in bed, my mind flooded with those thoughts once again. Instead of falling asleep, I laid restless for about an hour thinking about them.

Strangely enough, over these last few dreams I have learned so much about Cici. She has told me how we supposedly know each other, various things we have done, and our upcoming plans over the next few weeks. I have gotten to know about her studies, her likes and dislikes, and her hopes, dreams, and ambitions. I find her to be kind, cute and determined, which makes her that much more amazing to me. Whenever I am with her in my dreams it is as if I am in ecstasy.

As I mull over more thoughts of her, my face grows flush. Suddenly, I realize my reaction and scold myself and immediately sit up. Wait! What the hell is wrong with me? It is as if I have a growing infatuation with someone from my dreams. Isn’t that something completely irrational and unhealthy? I take a deep breath as I fervently shake my head. After all, she is just a dream right? It’s not as if anything from these dreams could possibly be real. I stretch my arms and sigh as I get out of bed. I had been carrying so many confused and jumbled thoughts in my head and it was getting to me. I slip into my slippers and begin pacing around continuing to wonder how I could possibly feel this way.

The more I thought about the way I felt, the more frightened I became. I knew I needed to do something. Suddenly, it dawned on me: even though I could not remember most of the names from my dreams, there was one name that I did remember. Hastily, I grabbed my laptop and turned it on and plopped back into bed. I needed to look her up. But it was useless. There were thousands of results for Amanda Cain that scattered around the world; even localized searches were too vast to be of any use. Defeated, I leaned back against headboard and let out an exasperated breath. Then a wave of weariness came awash on me. The past few days’ restlessness finally caught up with me and I fell asleep.

My body tingled as I felt a tapping sensation on my right shoulder accompanied by a tickling of my right earlobe. I began to lift my head from my slumber as I heard a hushed voice whisper, “Joey, hey Joey. Wake up. You’re sleeping in the computer lab. Joey, wake up.” I recognized that voice; I was dreaming again.

Quickly, I opened my eyes. I am sitting in front of a computer with various maps on the monitor. To my left there are several computers with people sitting at some of the terminals. I looked to my right and saw that Cici was staring intently at me with a quizzical look. I roll my eyes as I chastise her sternly, “Why the hell can’t you wake me up like a normal person?”

“What?” she replied, her eyes bulging in confusion. “I was poking you on the shoulder, that’s what people normally do isn’t it?”

I sharpened my look at her and raised my voice. “Yeah, but normal people don’t blow on someone’s earlobe to wake them up!” Immediately, several people at nearby terminals glare at me. Embarrassed, I turned to everyone while saying, “Sorry.” I take a deep breath, refocus my gaze, and continue to glare at her.

She tilted her head and asked, “Is Joey mad at me?” I remained silent as she continued a few seconds later. “Oh, he must be. He’s not talking to me. I wonder what’ll happen if I do this?” She pushed her lips together to make a kiss, and began to lean in to me.

Instinctively, I stuck out my hand and flicked her with one finger on the forehead. “Geez, you’re annoying.”

A bright red spot appeared where I flicked her. She pouted and whined, “Ow. That hurt Joey.”

I flicked her again on that reddened spot and reminded her, “And it’s Joseph.”

She rubbed her forehead before starting up again. “Hey, hey. Where are we gonna go for break? Who’s gonna be going?” she asked curiously.

My eyes softened; from my previous dreams, I remember that this imaginary school is having a break soon. I stared at the monitor in front of me and thought for a while before easily replying, “Not entirely sure yet, but I promise it’ll be great.” I smiled and placed my hand on my chin. “Most likely it’ll just be the two of us though; a lot of the others already have plans and stuff.”

My comment excited her as she replied, “It’s okay, even it’s just the two of us we’ll have lots of fun.” She began inquiring about what I had planned. “Are we gonna go the coast, or the mountains? Or maybe to the city to experience some nightlife?” I shrugged my shoulders in response as her voice slowly began to drown out. I engrossed myself in thought again.

I began wondering about what would happen if these dreams persisted. I speculated on the toll that it would have on me. With all of the stresses of work and family, I already had a lot on my plate. I really did not need any more issues looming over me. I wondered how I could end these dreams. From what I had experienced, I knew that I was fully aware and in control of my actions in this world. I wondered if it was possible for me to ask why I was dreaming this. Maybe she could even give me some advice. After thinking about it for a few moments though, I realize that I could not leave my well-being in the hands of a dreamed up girl. Instead, I think about startling myself out of this world. I feel it was the only option. Maybe if I did something drastic I would shock myself out of these dreams. It occurred to me that Cici was the main constant in all of these dreams; as if she was a catalyst of sorts. Maybe telling her to go away could end these dreams.

I snapped out of thought, to hear her still talking. “I hope we’ll have enough time for a good amount of shopping also.” She suddenly noticed my glazed-over look and unhappily asked, “Hey Joey, are you even paying attention to what I’m saying?”

I looked at her, “Sorry, I must be really tired or something.” Despite her being just a dream, I felt like I would miss talking to her.

She sternly replied, “Geez, you keep zoning out; and especially on a cutie like me. You see, this is why you don’t have a girlfriend…” Instantly, she curled up in anticipation for my reaction.

Instead, though, I gathered my thoughts before somberly saying, “Heh, I suppose you’re right.”

She loosened up, surprised at what I had said. Her demeanor changed as she proudly but hesitantly remarked, “Yes I am right, I suppose.”

A stoic look appeared on my face as I kicked in motion my attempt to end this. Swiftly I told Cici, “Actually, I don’t think we should hang out during break.”

Her eyes widened in shock. “What? Joey, where did that come from? Why do you say that?”

Strangely enough, actually saying those words and hearing her response caused my hands to tremble. Ignoring it, I continued knowing that I needed to be aggressive. “Well, you know, we always hang out with each other, so it might be best if we didn’t do so anymore. It might be a good idea to not see each other for a while.”

What I said unsettled her. “Are you messing around with me again Joey? I really don’t find it funny at all…”

I shook my head while sternly keeping my gaze on her, “Nope, I’m serious.”

Tears formed in the corners of her eyes. I could feel the desperation and confusion in her. “Why? Why are you saying these things?” Her voice softened, pleading for me to stop. “Please don’t say these kinds of things. It isn’t funny…”

My heart started to tighten, but I could not back out now. I did everything I could to clear my head of emotional thought. I reminded myself that this was just a dream. There would be no consequences. This was all dreamed up. I further sharpened my look at Cici and bluntly told her, “Let me be frank with you, I don’t want to see you anymore.” My heart clenched even further.

She shook her head in disbelief. More tears began to form. “Why? We’ve always been so close. Don’t you enjoy being together?”

I clenched both my hands, the pain in my chest growing more and more palpable by the second. “Whether I hate you or not, it doesn’t matter, I need to do this. Besides, this isn’t real at all.”

My head tightened as thoughts and memories flashed in my head. The pain and visions grew sharper and more vivid. I took another deep breath and I convinced myself once more that this was just a dream. I had no idea why doing this hurt so much, but I could sense the finish line was near. All I needed to do was emphasize the end.

I glared at her, my gaze sharp as daggers and resentfully said, “None of this is real, so there really is no point in continuing this on.” Finally, like driving a dagger into her chest, I raised my voice and yelled, “Leave me and my dreams alone!”

Cici covered her face with her hands as a cascade of tears fell from her eyes. Her disbelief pierced my heart. “No…” Vigorously she shook her head as she clenched her teeth. Despondent, she replied, “That’s not true at all.” She sat still for a few moments before she grabbed her phone and ripped off something from it. She fiercely hurled it at me and screamed, “You idiot!” Her clothes were dotted with the tears flowing from her cheeks. “You idiot!” She stood up and ran out of the lab yelling one final time, “You idiot Joey!!!”

I sighed as I felt the tingling from the tightness in my chest slowly dissipating. It was surreal how excruciatingly sharp the pain was, almost to the point of being back-breakingly unbearable. However, I knew it was not real. Several seconds pass before I am able to take a deep breath and reassure myself of that fact. I looked down at what Cici threw at me. It was a cute brown teddy bear with a big red heart on its midsection; attached to it were several various colored beads. I looked at it for a while before muttering, “I must have given her this. Or at least my dream gave her this.” I placed it in my pocket as tears formed in the corners of my eyes. Slowly the lights began to glow brighter and brighter. I felt a tear drop onto my hand before everything faded completely.

I awoke to the glow of my laptop shining in my face. I turned it off and went to my bed to continue sleeping. I dreamed of nothing else that night.

Fiction | Literature | Writing

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